CANADA. Canada's governing Liberals have made education the centrepiece of the country's first balanced federal budget in almost three decades.
In his budget speech last week, federal finance minister Paul Martin announced the setting up of a $2.5 billion (pound;1bn) fund that will award 100,000 scholarships to students attending both academic and vocational institutions.
The news for primary and secondary schools is also good. Mr Martin has substantially increased the funding for SchoolNet, a programme which is charged with making Canadian schools the most computer connected in the world. Since 1993, on a budget of $82 million, SchoolNet has arranged for 70 per cent of schools to be linked to the Internet; the remainder will be on-line by December.
According to industry minister John Manley, this "connectivity will give Canadian schoolkids the best possible access to the enormous resources available to help them learn". Over the next three years SchoolNet will spend $245 million linking every classroom to the Internet.
Reaction has been generally positive to the other measure designed to enable parents to pay for students' higher or further education. Under the new Canada Education Savings Grant programme, the federal government will contribute 20 cents for every dollar invested in a registered education trust fund (up to $400 per year).
According to Mr Martin, a child of three whose parents saved $25 every two weeks would receive, at age 18, $4,700 each year for four years, and of that amount, almost $800 a year would come from the government.
Brad Lavigne, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, said: "This policy entrenches the notion that only those who can save can go."
But Robert C Gillett, president of Algonquin College in Ottawa, said: "Not only has the government declared its interest in education, which under our constitutional system is a provincial matter, it has set in place a number of fiscal strategies that will allow greater access to post-secondary education."